Monday, May 30, 2016

Nothing Christian about heinous discrimination

  Compassion. Compassion. Compassion.

  Thumbing through the Bible, I'm looking for something about compassion.

  Oh, that's right. It's everywhere. Start with that Golden Rule thing.

  No need to cite chapter or verse to know there's nothing Christian at all about the response attributed to conservative Christians regarding so-called bathroom bills. There's nothing remotely Christian about Republican state leaders saying they'd forgo federal funds rather than abide by the Justice Department's rules forbidding discrimination against transgendered people.

  It's all posturing on behalf of people who won't acknowledge that God doesn't create us with a cookie-cutter.

  Bob Dylan sang: "Don't criticize what you don't understand." But just listen:

  In Texas, for instance, you have a veritable goon squad trying to rationalize the rashest judgments about transgendered people. Attorney General Ken Paxton says this is about accommodating "men deciding one day they want to be women and then switching back the next day."

  Then you have Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, quipping, "When you go to the restroom, the M does not stand for 'make up your mind,' and the W does not stand for 'whatever.'"

  Yuk. Yuk.

  Not only is it unfunny, it positively drips with ignorance.

  These clowns are flexing their lack of understanding about something called gender dysphoria. It's not a "this today, that tomorrow" thing. It's a wrenching condition that way too often results in suicide. It's not something you acquire via the claw at the game arcade.

  Praise be to the Obama administration for seeing the injustice in the string of so-called bathroom laws that have sprung forth from Republican-controlled state governments.

  Praise be to performers like Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr who are boycotting North Carolina for legislation that heaps more angst onto the shoulders of people who deserve compassion.

  Praise be to Paypal for yanking 400 jobs from the Tar Heel State in cancelling a global operations center in Charlotte over the same concern.

  Oh, and the University of North Carolina has said it will disobey the new state law and not force transgendered individuals to use restrooms that don't comport with their sexual identities.

  These are entities acting out the Golden Rule. What so-called Christian conservatives are doing is acting out. Period.

  They can't handle the truth that not all of us are die-cast from the Eagle Forum manual. They've tried to convince us for generations that homosexuality is not only a matter of choice but a blight that can be cured like toenail fungus.

  The thing is, unlike same-sex marriage and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," this issue isn't even about gay rights. The people in question aren't gay, and there's no confusion, no conflict, as to their genders. They are men and women, or boys and girls, and that's that.

  The similarity between this matter and the battle for gay rights is that those who would oppress others based on sexual orientation or being transgendered want to make presumptive insinuations about those who might benefit.

  If a person enters a restroom to prey on or peep on people, that's a crime. We can handle that. However, those who are transgendered are not going to be distinguishable from those who aren't. If they do anything that harms others, they have committed a crime. We can handle that

  How many times must we say this? It is wrong to discriminate against someone because of what he or she is. Judge someone by what he or she does.

  Throughout the ages, the most religious among us have been the most oppressive. That applies as much today as it did when Magellan tried to bully the natives of Mactan Island into accepting Christianity and got a poison arrow.

  You see, he thought he knew how the world worked, and he was dead wrong.

  Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Box tells ex-convicts: 'Don't apply; if you do, lie

        Before discussing a sensitive subject, let us recite the Rotary Four-Way Test:

"Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?"

I'm not a Rotarian. I just like the Rotary Test for conduct.

If our actions met that test, this would generate no argument: As President Obama has done with federal hiring, every state should "ban the box" that effectively blocks an ex-convict from being considered by employers.

For those who think this is just one of those bleeding heart liberal fixations – Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders being strong supporters – Gov. Chris Christie signed a similar order for New Jersey, and Republican Sen. Rand Paul is one of several conservatives who've joined Democrats in supporting legislation that would seal the records of prior offenders.

If we can't ban the box, employers should step up to the plate and resolve the problem that it represents.

The box doesn't promote truth. It encourages a lie. The box isn't fair. It's presumptive and arbitrary. The box doesn't build goodwill. It shuts a door.

Without question, banning the box would meet the fourth part of the Rotary Test: It would benefit all concerned.

The Senate measure would prohibit employers from making applicants state up front if they have criminal histories.

Naturally, some employers want that prerogative. They'll say it's an efficient way to weed out undesirables.

Yep, presumptive.

Some employers say that marking the box doesn't mean automatic rejection. To a person trying to rebuild his or her life, though, it says one thing: "You need not apply; or if you do, lie."

As a teacher at the community college level, I can't tell you how many students I have met who were once behind bars.

They have committed themselves to personal reclamation. It pains me greatly -- and it should pain you, too -- to think that I would have pumped up these individuals' expectations about getting an education, only to have their hopes blocked by a four-sided shape joined at right angles.

The Colorado Center on Law and Public Policy says one in four Americans has some level of criminal history. Those who think the box affects few aren't thinking.

Not surprisingly, various business groups oppose a ban on the box, saying that it's unnecessary government meddling. But then, so are worker-safety measures and the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. We follow those measures because, as the Rotary four-way test insists, it is beneficial for everyone.

The "box" prevents people from making good on their pledge to themselves, their states and their families to do right by society upon parole.

If we consider just one ex-felon and how a good job would make a difference, we cannot possibly rationalize how the box works.

Take away that man or woman's employment opportunities and you take away his or her family's hopes for betterment. What about the children and the role modeling that a fresh start for a parent can mean?

Block that parent from meaningful employment and we cast his or her children into a foreboding alley of uncertainty and bad choices.

Banning the box is the best way to disrupt the cycle of crime and to combat the poverty that normally sets it in motion.

If we are serious about doing something about that cycle, we will take this sound and smart move. Anything else fails the test. 

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, May 16, 2016

How Ted, Mitch and Marco helped T-Rex emerge as a monster

That was pretty snarky of TV's Samantha Bee to enlist Michelle Branch to retool her 2000 hit "Goodbye to You" as "Goodbye to Cruz."

However, when Branch sang of Ted Cruz, "I wanna punch you and ignore you at the same time," let us acknowledge that she spoke not just for effete liberal entertainment types but for many of Ted Cruz's Republican cohorts in the Senate.

It is quite a resume-topper to be known as the most hated man in the least-liked public institution in America.

        Now to add another distinction to the vita, and we hate to break it to the senator, but he's most certainly a key figure responsible for making Donald Trump so popular.

        No, that can't be. Listen to the senator.

Last week Cruz decried Trump's ascendance and said that "everyone responsible" for it "will bear the responsibility going forward."

         The words sounded defiantly gallant. However, they also sound like someone in denial, someone who doesn't understand exactly what Republican primary voters were and are rejecting.

         He wants to blame others, but per the mess in which the GOP finds itself, Cruz has played the role of Dennis Nedry, the wonk in "Jurassic Park" who unlocks the pen that enables the T-Rex – T for Trump -- to run amok. Oh, then Nedry gets devoured by a dilophosaurus.

        Call this an overstatement if you will, but what Republicans have done – or not done, as it were -- in Washington over the last eight years has made it possible for just about any billionaire in a suit to offer himself as a better alternative.

  If Trump can be considered post-partisan, and he can, Cruz embodies the partisanship that GOP voters rejected this primary season.

  It's one thing to be an obstructionist. Sen. Mitch McConnell pledged to be one every day in every way when Barack Obama became president. Sen. Cruz, joining in the fun when sent from Texas in 2012 as the Great Tea Party Hope, raised those stakes. He offered his services not just as obstructionist but as a master destructionist.

  The great pelt on Cruz's wall remains his role in shutting down the federal government for 16 days in 2013. Or shall we say pelts – those of all the people whose livelihoods, benefits or government services hung in limbo while he and the tea party held the government hostage.

Trump's success, despite the frantic efforts of Republican leaders, can be seen as blowback against the GOP, particularly its brand of do-nothingness in Washington.

  Lest we dogpile on Cruz alone, consider how Marco Rubio, for one, helped make Trump the nominee. Rubio is a man seen as a leading light at the start of the campaign, but who crumbled on the stump and ultimately lost by a landslide in his own state.

  However, there was to the story. Far from being a groundswell of support for Trump, the Florida primary was a beat-down administered by back-home voters furious over Rubio's failure to do his job in Washington.

Rubio had no rejoinder to the fact that he had a certifiably miserable attendance records in the Senate. Challenged about this responded in fine do-nothing fashion, saying that nothing could be accomplished in the Senate.

Let's just say that McConnell, Cruz, Rubio and the rest of the Inactivity Players have done a pretty miserable job of casting themselves as suitable stewards of the republic.

Theirs is the kind of leadership that has made it easy for a plurality of GOP primary voters to take T-Rex out for a walk in the park.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

GOP’s boat ride into darkness

"The horror. The horror. . ." – closing lines from "Apocalypse Now."

I didn't think of contrasting the Republican Party's current situation with Francis Ford Coppola's movie masterpiece until the New York Times editorialized about Donald Trump's ascendancy and the Republican Party's "trek into darkness."

"Apocalypse Now," based on Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," is about a mission to take out a commander in Vietnam's deep jungles who has gone off his nut. GOP tacticians now face the sweaty reality that, unlike in the movie, they botched the mission.

Talk about brutal reviews:

"To say Trump is bad for the Republican Party is like saying a flood is bad for your basement" – USA Today.

We don't expect "fair and balanced" from Huffington Post. However, it's a footnote for history books that the mother of all news blogs in 2016 has begun appending all HuffPost-generated stories about Trump with the following editor's note:

"Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims – 1.6 billion members of an entire religion – from entering the U.S."

To which Trump will say: "Yes, and . . . ?"

Into this, let me introduce a parlor-game question for those seeking to wrap their heads around this political moment.

The question: Is Trump as its nominee worse for the Republican Party than Trump as president would be for the country?


Understand, even now a Trump presidency is no more likely than when it was when he was firing people on NBC weeknights. But let's just hypothesize, here.

If we do hypothesize, it's clear that Trump is worse for the Republican Party than for the nation as president. And the latter would be a horror.

The reason for this is that, as the nominee, Trump inflicts damage on his party every day with every word and gesture, like his #CincoDeMayo! "I love Hispanics" tweet showing him and a taco bowl. Holy frijoles.

By contrast, a lot of what Trump says he'd do as president – all right, most of it -- he can't do.

Take, for example, his vow to "open up libel laws" to allow newsmakers to sue reporters.

If Trump knew a thing about press law, he'd know that the Supreme Court set a very high bar for lawsuits by newsmakers in Sullivan vs. New York Times in 1964.

The court said that, absent of "actual malice," news organizations couldn't be sued over statements about public figures. The court said that to do otherwise would be to stifle an inquisitive, if fallible, press.

He can't overturn firmly established press law unless he "fires" the Supreme Court.

Neither can he do all sorts of things he's said he would, like build the Trump Wall – at least not without money from Congress. (Oh, I forgot. Mexico is going to pay for it.)

True, Trump's cinder-block dream might be possible with a tea party-controlled Congress. However, as we speak, his presumptive nomination is sapping the Republicans of their chances of holding onto the Senate.

Indeed, Politico says that with Trump atop the ticket, something considered unimaginable – flipping the GOP-controlled House this year – is far from a flight of fantasy.

No question: Trump is far more dangerous to his party than to the country he wants to lead. The latter is true, in part, because polls indicate how few Americans want him to lead them, and, in part, because even if he were elected we have separation of powers and finely honed checks and balances.

Someone should have informed the man before he decided to run.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:

Monday, May 2, 2016

Marijuana laws — you've got to be joking

       Eeyore's Birthday Party has come and gone in Austin again without scads of arrests. This is testament once again to the fact that our nation's marijuana laws are silly.

Not just silly. Sillier than your Aunt Vidalia on the wacky weed.

If marijuana laws were serious, the nation's jails this week would teem with newly incarcerated humanity. Oh, the humanity – and ambient smoke – since another 4/20, the day when millions of Americans annually flaunt the ever-absurdity of marijuana prohibition.

We're not sure why 4/20 became a day of peaceful pothead disobedience. Peaceful -- well, there's an understatement.

Not sure about the significance of Eeyore's birthday in Austin, either. Just call it pretext for April's inhale-abration to continue.

Oh, and it's only 344 days until April 14 and Austin's next Marley Fest – peace, love, reggae, and nobody getting arrested for doing something for which nobody ever should.

So tell us why some sad sack somewhere in Texas this week will get smoked -- six months (two ounces or less) to a year in jail depending on how someone in power tips the scales.

It's worse in Oklahoma: an abominable year in jail for any amount whatsoever.

This for a substance now legal in four states and the District of Columbia, and legalized for medical use in 24 states.

This for a substance the federal government is studying as a potential aid to veterans who suffer post-traumatic stress.

This for a substance that increasing numbers of former NFL players say should be legal for treatment for their lingering ills as an alternative to addicting and debilitating opiods.

This for a substance, or the oil from it, which even the Texas Legislature this year authorized for the treatment of epileptic seizures.

Stop this reefer madness. Putting people in jail for marijuana is idiotic and destructive. Foreclosing medical applications of marijuana is inhumane.

` Federal laws about marijuana are caught in a time warp – a 1970 time warp. That's the year Congress declared it a Schedule 1 drug alongside heroin and PCP and LSD.

Here's the result of that decision: untold commerce and riches for organized crime.

The old "gateway drug" canard owes itself to said classification. The only reason pot has any connection to other drugs is because its illicit status puts it on the same shelf and hence in the pusher's repertoire.

In 2013, after one year of pot legalization in Washington state and Colorado, Time magazine reported that those developments had cost Mexican drug cartels $1.4 billion.

Where did that money go instead? Into those states' economies. Colorado reaped $76 million in tax revenue from recreational and medical marijuana in 2014.

But don't let anyone convince you that this is about money. This is about decriminalizing something that shouldn't be a crime.

Racism is at the root of marijuana prohibition, the 19th century notion that invaders from south of the border were inserting it into our idyllic culture.

From those roots, laws against marijuana, and drug laws in general, have been used to oppress and imprison the poor, particularly people of color, for indulging in the same practices as their more fortunate white brethren.

How harmful is marijuana? No one can call it harmless. However, it can't hold a candle to the pathology of addictin to alcohol and nicotine. Of course, producers of said vices can be expected to campaign hard to keep pot illegal.

I've never smoked – anything. The idea repels my bronchioles. However, the notion that smoking an herb would put you in the slammer is more repulsive.

The fact that people who hurt can't use it to ease their pain, depending on where they live, is even more repellent. And silly.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: